490 BioTech wins PYA’s inaugural Tom Ballard Innovation Award

TAEBC Energy Mentor Network graduates Eonix and Ascend Manufacturing secure second and third places

Last week, Knoxville-based PYA awarded 490 BioTech the inaugural Tom Ballard Innovation Award. Eonix, LLC and Ascend Manufacturing, Innovation Crossroads Cohort 2 alumni and TAEBC Energy Mentor Network graduates, came in second and third places respectively.

In securing first place, 490 BioTech, a biotechnology startup, will receive $50,000 in in-kind and capital services from PYA. Second place includes $10,000 worth of in-kind strategy support and third place involves $5,000 worth of in-kind strategy support from PYA.

“Today we’re celebrating their accomplishments,” said Tom Ballard, PYA’s Chief Alliance Officer and the award’s namesake, as he recognized the three startups during the award ceremony. Ballard has spent decades working on creating relationships and supporting the area’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. He is also the publisher of Teknovation.biz.

According to PYA’s announcement, the Tom Ballard Innovation Award is the largest combination of cash and in-kind services available to startups in the East Tennessee region. Held annually moving forward, the award will support early-stage companies that demonstrate “great promise and an innovative focus.”

“In short, we want entrepreneurs and business owners that start here to stay here. And we want innovation and business that move here to love and thrive here,” said PYA President and Chief Executive Officer Marty Brown. “So, a full support system by long-time East Tennessee businesses is critical to accomplish this. And this award, along with the cash and in-kind services, is just another commitment on behalf of the PYA owners to this entrepreneurial community.”

Ballard is a valued TAEBC member and the inspiration for TAEBC’s annual Thomas B. Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award. In 2019, TAEBC bestowed the first-ever award to Ballard himself during TAEBC’s Annual Meeting.

Learn more about PYA’s Tom Ballard Innovation Award here.

Innovation Crossroads Showcase webinar emphasizes value of East Tennessee entrepreneurship

This year’s Innovation Crossroads Showcase emphasized the value of statewide partnerships and entrepreneurship in the East Tennessee region. Presented by the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council and LaunchTN, the virtual event took place during Innov865 Week 2020.  

Kicking off the event, TAEBC Executive Director Cortney Piper spoke about TAEBC’s partnership with LaunchTN and creation of the Energy Mentor Network. The Energy Mentor Network program’s goal is to foster the growth of Tennessee advanced energy technologies and startups by connecting entrepreneurs with mentors and industry specific expertise. Piper highlighted the accomplishments of program graduates, including Solar Site Design, SkyNano Technologies, Stone Mountain Technologies, and Active Energy Systems.  

Afterward, Piper moderated a fireside chat with Van Tucker, LaunchTN’s Interim Chief Executive Officer, where they discussed Tucker’s background, LaunchTN’s work in the state, and the entrepreneurial ecosystem of East Tennessee.  

“I’m really proud of the work that is being done in East Tennessee,” Tucker remarked. 

Speaking about what gives her hope for the future, Tucker said that while there are plenty of challenges and problems that have arisen due to COVID-19, she believes “this is the moment for innovators and entrepreneurs” to rise up.

“Entrepreneurs are, I believe, the best chance we have of rapid economic recovery in our nation at the moment,” she said. “And they need to be given the resources they need to grow and thrive and help contribute to that economic recovery.”

Later, Dan Miller, Director, Innovation Crossroads, spoke about the Innovation Crossroads program and upcoming Cohort Five application deadline. Based at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Innovation Crossroads program leverages ORNL’s scientific resources and capabilities and connects the nation’s top innovators with experts, mentors, and networks in technology-related fields to take world-changing ideas from research and development to the marketplace. 

Miller then introduced Innovation Crossroads Cohort Four startups for their pitches. Attendees heard pitches from Actinic, AquaQuant Laboratories, Becq, PixelEXX Systems, and Quantum Lock Technologies.

Mitchell Ishmael, Cohort One alumni and co-founder of Active Energy Systems, moderated a panel discussion with Cohort Two alumni as they provided updates on their businesses and reflected on their time in the Innovation Crossroad and Energy Mentor Network programs. Panelists included Don DeRosa of Eonix, Shane McMahon of Lux Semiconductors, Justin Nussbaum of Ascend Manufacturing, and Megan O’Connor of Nth Cycle.

“The Knoxville area in general is extremely supportive,” Nussbaum said. “Everyone that I have worked with around here is always willing to help and provide feedback. It’s just been a great area to build a company in because of that assistance.” 

To learn more about the Energy Mentor Network or become a mentor, click here. To learn more about Innovation Crossroads or apply for Cohort Five before the October 31 deadline, follow this link.